An Imperfect Mom’s Approach to a Healthy Diet

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Healthy Food for Our Kids

Sometimes feeding our kids healthy food is hard. I see all the ideas for healthy snacks (like my child would dream of eating celery) and hear moms talk about how they would never feed their kids food like macaroni and cheese or pizza (Friday is pizza night in our house). Mom guilt sets in and I worry about what I am doing to my child. I know all the facts. Childhood obesity is on the rise. We should eat whole foods. The eating habits she learns now will stay with her the rest of her life. Yet still, I sometimes break out that Easy Mac, and every time we go to Target, the Icee station is our first stop. I want nothing but the best for her, so why do we do this? 

My daughter had a lot of trouble eating her first year, and came close to needing a feeding tube at four months. So when she started eating well, my reaction was nothing but happiness and relief! I didn’t worry if she had ice cream a bit too often, or feasted on potato chips at times. She ate healthy foods as well, always doing well on her veggies, and loving fruit. Besides, kids are pretty much supposed to favor grilled cheese and chicken nuggets over baked halibut and skinless chicken breasts, right? The doctor said she was perfectly healthy, and I saw no problem.

                                                                Apples or Fries? Both Please!

Aim for Moderation

I began to notice a few things I wasn’t happy with around three and a half years old. She could eat way too much pizza in one sitting for a young child, and sweets were becoming too large a part of her diet. At her four year check up, her BMI, although still within a healthy range, had gone up considerably. I realized I needed to make some changes, but I also knew perfection (or close to it) was not in the cards for us. Over time I have learned to aim for moderation in life. I did not want to focus too much time and energy on perfecting one small part of our lives. 

Now let’s get real. I often do not have time to cook a healthy, non-processed meal at dinner time. I also do not have any talent as a chef, which doesn’t help matters. Cooking a fresh meal that should take 30 minutes, takes me an hour. This is time away from my daughter, who wants nothing more after a long day at school then to play with me. She wants to have my sole focus be her. I would much rather spend the time I do have with her, and settle for an imperfect but relatively healthy diet. Also, I don’t know if anybody has noticed, but it is expensive to buy organic veggies and fresh seafood! Since I’m unwilling to take my daughter out of the school she loves or never take a family vacation, I can only buy organic occasionally. Education and time away together is very important to our family, and if I have an extra few bucks, I’d rather spend it on experiences rather than overpriced granola bars.

Balance

Am I making excuses? Some will say I am. Some will judge. To them, I say I do the best I can and make choices I feel are the best for our family. I never wanted to raise my child without sugar or processed foods. To me, cake at celebrations, hot dogs at ballgames, and getting ice cream on hot days are a part of the fun of life. I want happiness and balance in all aspects of life. So that is what I aim for.

Gradually my daughter’s diet has significantly improved. Her after-school snack is relatively healthy but still convenient and affordable. A favorite is pretzels, and usually she happily adds some baby carrots as well. She drinks water almost exclusively, and one percent milk otherwise. She has never tasted soda, and I plan to keep it that way for as long as possible. Sweets are limited to special outings and a small dessert after dinner. As for what dinner consists of, I still make hamburger helper some nights (it’s one of her and my husband’s favorites), but she also eats a lot of pasta, lean turkey burgers, and a variety of veggies. We still sometimes go to McDonald’s on play dates, and she eats her beloved fries. She also devours her apple slices and spends hours running around the PlayPlace.

I feel good about where we are right now. Is there room for improvement? Of course. There is room for improvement in almost every aspect of my life, but I’ve learned to be okay with imperfection. Life is for living, it is for laughter and playing and cuddling. It is for learning and growing, and for making special, memorable moments every day. That is my focus for my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Jenny was raised in Ohio, and after a decade long stay in Boston, moved to Columbus in 2016. She moved to Massachusetts alone but returned with the two loves of her life: her husband whom she married in 2012, and her daughter who was born in March of 2014. You could say the trip to the northeast was a successful one. Her top reasons for coming home were family, weather, traffic, and housing prices. Jenny lives for time spent with her little family of three. The trio has had so much fun exploring all that Columbus has to offer since moving to the area. Jenny looks forward to sharing her favorite spots in Columbus; as well as her knowledge and experiences of how mental health impacts parents and children; and what it is like raising an only child. She works as a counselor, reads at least two books weekly, and loves to practice yoga when time and energy allow. The key to a good day for Jenny is her morning routine: early morning cuddles with her daughter and enjoying a good cup of coffee before the craziness of life begins.